Sheldon Clowdus

Disciple . Husband . Father


Fighting For The Gospel
In the past couple of weeks there have been two events in the evangelical world that have been the objects of much attention and controversy.  The first of those events was the Code Orange Revival held by Elevation Church pastored by Steven Furtick.  The second event was the Elephant Room 2 created and hosted by James MacDonald.  Furtick, MacDonald, and T.D. Jakes were all participants in both events and were the lightning rods for the majority of the controversy as well.  Many at these events have said, insinuated, and implied that those who have serious concerns over what took place at both Code Orange and Elephant Room are simply jealous (of the numerical success of the participants mostly), haters, or misinformed.  While these labels certainly apply to some, I think there is a legitimate reason for some serious concern.

That concern is for fidelity and faithfulness to the biblical gospel.

"But wait a minute...all those men would confirm the gospel wouldn't they?" you might be saying.

I think they would all agree to the ideas of the gospel as Paul lays them out in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6.  We have sinned, Christ died for our sin, Christ was buried and raised again.  I also think they would agree that faith in Christ is the only way to God the Father.

"If that is true, then what exactly is your concern?"  Glad you asked.

My biggest concern is that these three pastors (perhaps MacDonald less so than Furtick and Jakes) seem to disregard many of the biblical underpinnings of the gospel even as they affirm the facts of it.  Let me try to explain.

In order to understand the gospel rightly, we must first approach it with the right perspective.  That perspective is that everything about the gospel is to be defined and understood from what the bible says about it and that the gospel cannot be isolated from the entirety of the biblical story. Our own ideas about its content, purpose, or method of delivery are useless.  We are fallen people with deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) and our own ideas about the things of God are not to be trusted.  We must obediently submit to God's definition of the gospel, His declaration of its purpose, and His means of communicating it.

So what does the bible teach about these things?  

The first (and most important) concept we must believe in order to remain faithful to the gospel is that all things exist ultimately for the glory of God (Romans 11:36, Colossians 1:16)  This means that more than anything else, including the salvation of sinners, His own glory is God's highest priority.  What this does is place salvation in its proper context. Ephesians 1:3-6 tells us that our adoption as sons is for the "praise of His glorious grace".  When we understand that even the salvation of sinners is a means to the end of God's glory then we have a much better chance of remaining faithful to the biblical gospel.  

That is because when we elevate the salvation of sinners to the ultimate end of God, we then begin to justify any means to that end.  After all, nothing is more important than converting sinners so nothing is off the table when it comes to methodology.  This misunderstanding has led to the epidemic of pragmatism in today's churches.  Whatever works is exalted and fruitfulness as defined by numbers is the measure of a ministry's success.

When we understand that the purpose of everything in the universe is to glorify God then we can release ourselves from the un-biblical idea that God wants us to use whatever means necessary to reach lost people.  What God wants from us is humble obedience to His word and a faith that our humble obedience is what it takes to reach lost people for the glory of God.  We are commanded by God to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Timothy 4:2), trust in the power of the Holy Spirit in the gospel, and let God reach who He intends to reach.  Ultimately our job is not to reach people; it is to obediently proclaim the excellencies of the One who called us so that He might draw men unto Himself.

I don't dislike James MacDonald, Steven Furtick, or T.D. Jakes personally nor do I believe what they have done or said recently means they are not believers.  I do believe that in their efforts to have fruitful, successful ministries they have compromised the very gospel they say the believe and cherish and I believe that they need to repent where that has happened.  In Galatians 1:8-9 Paul says those that preach a false gospel are to be accursed.  It is imperative that we get the gospel right, for our hearers as well as for ourselves.

I will defend the gospel and call to accounts those, and especially those who wield such great influence, who by their words or actions defame or degrade that gospel.

If that makes me a jealous hater then so be it.

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband, and a father. I teach 5th grade in my hometown of Rome, Georgia.

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